A passionate advocate for girls’ education and refugee issues, Clare Morneau is a 17-year-old author and speaker who lives in Toronto with her father, Canada’s Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, mother, Nancy McCain, and siblings Henry, Edward and Grace Acan, who joined the family in 2010 from northern Uganda. Clare is compassionate, driven and committed to working for real change. As a student at Havergal College, she founded the Kakuma Toronto Girls Education Partnership. In the fall of 2016, she released her first book, Kakuma Girls (named one of "Heather's Picks" at Chapters Indigo shortly after its launch). She completed a four-week internship at the Global Humanitarian Lab, a partner organization of the United Nations, in the summer of 2016 and has been named a Global Humanitarian Lab Youth Ambassador by the organization.
I'm thrilled to have Clare as a special guest blogger today, sharing ways families can give back over the holiday season.
I’m Clare Morneau, and I’m the author of Kakuma Girls, a book about refugee girls in Kakuma Refugee Camp in northwest Kenya. My book is about the challenges young refugees, particularly girls, face when attempting to get an education in refugee camps. More than that though, it’s about how we can mobilize youth to be engaged in our efforts to help refugees.
The story about how I got involved with these girls is rooted in friendship. It’s also about helping young Canadians understand the enormous gulf between our experiences and those less fortunate, and how a small local effort has the potential to lead to a great solution to a global issue.
There are so many amazing ways we can all give back over the holiday season through random acts of kindness rather than just by buying more things. Here are 5 ideas I love:
1. Buy a book for someone in your community – books change lives. I’ve always been inspired by the power of books. Everyone should have access to books and the right to read and learn. You can’t give a more impactful gift than the gift of education.
2. Donate to your local clothing drive. Clothing is a fundamental need, but for many, it’s also transformational. One of my favourite clothing donation programs is Dress for Success; an organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire. Another great option is New Circles, a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto that gives local families and newcomers to Canada the clothing they need. With another cold Canadian winter approaching, it’s a great idea to donate your or your kids’ gently used winter clothing.
3. Bring school supplies to donate to the kids in the regions you’re visiting over the holidays. We are so lucky here to have access to new pens, binders, and notepads for every new school year. So many kids worldwide don’t have this luxury and it has a negative impact on their motivation to thrive at school. Popular holiday destinations like Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Cuba are examples of countries where kids are living in poverty. If you’re visiting these areas over the holidays, bring an extra bag of school supplies to leave with these children! It’s a small thing to do, and it will make such an enormous difference in their lives.
Photo: Storey Wilkins
4. Share a holiday meal with a new Canadian and/or a refugee. There are many new immigrants and refugees spending their first holiday season in Canada this year. It’s a huge blessing for them to be here, and also, a daunting reality since for many, they won’t be with their loved ones. Sharing a meal together will be an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience for them and you.
5. Sponsor a meal at a soup kitchen. If you’re based in Toronto, the Muslim Welfare Centre hosts a series of meals around the GTA, helping Torontonians get warm meals.
We all have the means to make a real difference in someone’s life. Whether your efforts are global or local, they matter.
Follow Clare on Twitter @KakumaGirls and Instagram @Kakuma_Girls.